Couples Counseling

Relationship Counseling for Individuals, Couples and Families

One day I was having lunch with a friend who has been alive a lot longer than I have. He said something that has become a bit of a slogan for me in my relationship counseling work. He said, “There is nothing in this world that is better than a good marriage. And there is nothing in this world that is worse than a bad marriage”.

A good point, don’t you think? I think the same can be said of families, too.

Who I work with

I work with couples in any configuration. I will work with people who are married, who are considering getting married, who have filed for divorce, who are having affairs with one another or someone else, who are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or whatever, who are into unusual sexual practices or who are not into sex at all—it doesn’t matter. I won’t try to change you or try to make you act according to my own personal values.

I have had multiple parts of blended families in my office working through the difficulties of merging together after a divorce. Step dads, step moms, step kids- it can be a difficult mix at times. Having me in the room functioning a bit like a referee can sometimes help the family communication process flow more productively.

I have done a lot of work with all sorts of persons who have gotten into trouble for violating their professional ethical codes by getting into sexual relationships with their patients, clients, students, church members, professors, supervisors, etc. I can handle your relationship issues in this area with the utmost of sensitivity and confidentiality.  At present I am not required to report most of these issues to the authorities.  However, if you are in an illegal relationship I must report it to the proper authorities.  For example, I would have to report an adult who is sexually involved with an underage person.

What we do

The task, in very simple terms, is to stop relating to one another in ways that make things worse and relate more in ways that make things better. Simple, huh?

It is very simple, but it is by no means easy.

If, for example, a couple was once really in love, there is usually a foundation we can work with. Like a corroded electrical connection, it might be better to invest the time and effort trying to clean things up, brush off the corrosion, and get the connection flowing again rather than hastily cutting everything off or throwing it away. Relationship counseling often has a cheaper and happier ending than does divorce. On the other hand, my personal belief system does not require me to try to save every marriage at any cost. Divorce should be an option on the table. Sometimes marriages should end. Sometimes families do better when they live in more than one house.

Sometimes there is genuine love and affection but there is so much emotional pain that the willingness to rebuild is absent. Marriages or families in which a partner is abusing the another physically or psychologically are sometimes not able to be saved. When there has been significant physical abuse, verbal abuse, betrayal, cruelty, or infidelity, sometimes the trust is simply too damaged to fully recover.  If one of the adults has abused any of the children, sometimes the family should split up in order to protect the child from further abuse.

Now and then I will see a couple where there was never really a good connection to start with so there is not any old connection to use in rebuilding. Usually in these cases one or both partners got married for the wrong reasons. Family pressure, the ticking biological clock, impulsivity, immaturity, trying to ‘fix’ one’s life by getting married (for example, trying to not be gay by getting married and starting a family- I’ve seen that one several times, or getting married in order to leave home or to have sex). These relationships built on a shaky connection will usually end up on the rocks down the road. When they end up in trouble, the partners have a decision to make: to try to create an acceptably good connection and stay together, or to simply acknowledge the errors they both made and go their separate ways. Either choice can work.

Oftentimes partners replicate their early childhood patterns with one another, failing to see that the dependencies and expectations that failed in childhood are now being projected and re-enacted with the spouse or children. This is where something that looks like psychotherapy might need to happen so that there can be an understanding that any unhealed wounds from the past are probably still alive and kicking in the context of the everyday relationship.

Families usually benefit from clearing up communication problems. Almost everyone in a family loves everybody else at some level, but somehow working through difficulties has become adversarial, competitive, and family talks are more about power and control rather than mutual respect and collaboration.

I love helping people restore or improve their emotional connections with one another. It can be painstakingly difficult, but it is definitely worth doing.

Questions? Use the form below to contact me confidentially.

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